We’re breaking down some of the biggest movers in our top 25 and revealing our TRACR projection model’s college football predictions for Week 8’s biggest matchups.

Big Defense, Little Offense

Utah. Iowa. Clemson.

They’re among the teams that have seemingly been in one slugfest after another this season, grinding out every yard and fighting for every point.

This certainly isn’t new for Iowa in recent seasons and the Hawkeyes (6-1) have won their last three games in the Big Ten, averaging 20.3 points while allowing 8.7.

But what do these teams have in common? They’re the only programs in the country that rank in the top 15 in defensive TRACR (D-TRACR) but 75th or worse in offensive TRACR (O-TRACR).

 Utah leads the nation in D-TRACR but is just 111th in O-TRACR, Clemson is sixth in D-TRACR and 75th in O-TRACR and Iowa is an impressive 15th in D-TRACR and a woeful 127th in O-TRACR.

TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that evaluates how well a team performs based on who it plays. The model, which is trained on over 10 years of data, is based on an EPA (expected points added) calculation weighed by who teams play. 

A team with a TRACR of 0.0 is considered an average team in the FBS. The rankings, along with teams’ projected records, probability of running the table and chances of becoming a bowl-eligible team, are being updated throughout the season on our TRACR college football rankings page.

Big Offense, Little Defense

LSU. Air Force. Kansas. 

Shootouts have become the norm for these schools. Touchdowns may come easy, but slowing the opponent does not.

LSU, which is third in the nation in scoring, has averaged 45.0 points over its last four games while allowing an average of 35.8. Kansas shares the Tigers’ record at 5-2 despite allowing 27.4 points per game (they average 35.4).

On the flip side of Utah, Clemson and Iowa are LSU, Air Force and Kansas. They’re the only teams that sit in the top 10 in O-TRACR while also ranking 80th or worse in D-TRACR. 

The Tigers are second in O-TRACR and 103rd in D-TRACR and the Jayhawks are 11th in O-TRACR and 111th in D-TRACR. The Falcons, who look to move to 7-0 against Navy on Saturday, are eighth in O-TRACR and 89th in D-TRACR

Big Offense, Big Defense

Of course, there are paths to victory for both types of teams. Utah (5-1), Iowa and Clemson (4-2) are a combined 15-4, while LSU, Air Force and Kansas have gone 16-4 heading into Week 8.

There’s an old refrain that defense wins championships. But really, every team aims to replicate the balance Georgia had last year when it capped a 15-0 season with a 65-7 victory over TCU in the national championship game. The Bulldogs were the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in both scoring offense (41.1) and defense (14.3) in 2022.

So who fits the bill so far this season? Here are the teams who have the lowest combined O-TRACR and D-TRACR rankings heading into Week 8.

Lowest Combined Offensive/Defensive TRACR Rankings

  • 1. Michigan Wolverines (5)
  • 2. Florida State Seminoles (18)
  • 3. Georgia Bulldogs (20)
  • 4. Oklahoma Sooners (21)
  • 5. Ohio State Buckeyes (22)
  • T-6. Duke Blue Devils (23)
  • T-6. Penn State Nittany Lions (23)
  • 8. Oregon Ducks (27)
  • 9. Washington Huskies (29)
  • 10. Texas Longhorns (32)

Whether or not it’s because the team has been stealing signs, Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines rank third in O-TRACR and second in D-TRACR as they look to go 8-0 on Saturday in a rivalry game at Michigan State.

They’re putting up 39.4 points per game (10th in the FBS) while allowing a nation-best average of 6.7 points. They also are sitting pretty atop our playoff potential ratings after winning its first four Big Ten games (Rutgers, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana) by a combined 180-31 margin.

Playoff Potential Ratings

Our playoff potential rating suggests that only teams that have really impressed should make it to the CFP. No two-loss team has ever made it to the playoff, so having two losses while other teams have zero or one will not be good enough.

Teams with a playoff potential rating of 40-60 are most likely teams with two or three losses that would not make it (barring chaos like every team ahead of them losing out). Teams with a rating of 61-80 would also not be included unless there is a slightly smaller amount of chaos.

Teams with a rating of 80-90 have playoff potential, though they would likely need to win out and have one team ahead of them fall late in the regular season. Teams at 90 or above (max 100) should be the main teams considered for the playoff.

Here are those teams along with every team at 70 or higher heading into this weekend.

Highest Playoff Potential Ratings

  1. Michigan Wolverines (99.9)
  2. Washington Huskies (98.2)
  3. Georgia Bulldogs (97.4)
  4. Oregon Ducks (96.2)
  5. Florida State Seminoles (95.6)
  6. Oklahoma Sooners (92.9)
  7. Ohio State Buckeyes (87.2)
  8. Penn State Nittany Lions (83.6)
  9. Duke Blue Devils (75.6)
  10. North Carolina Tar Heels (71.9)

There will be some movement in the ratings after Penn State visits Ohio State in a critical Big Ten showdown on Saturday. The Buckeyes, who are sixth in our overall TRACR rankings, are Vegas sportsbooks’ favorites at around minus-4.5 and our model gives them a 52.9% chance of beating the Nittany Lions at home.

The matchup of College Football Playoff hopefuls is the top-rated game on the college slate (per SmartRatings), followed by showdowns in the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC. SmartRatings is an AI-based platform that calculates excitement ratings based on six primary variables: pace, parity, novelty, momentum, context and social buzz.

The excitement scale translates to the following general sub-ranges: 0-39 (Dull Game), 40-64 (OK Game), 65-84 (Good Game) and 85-100 (Great Game).

Most Exciting Week 8 Games (SmartRating)

  • 1. Penn State at Ohio State (80)
  • 2. Tennessee at Alabama (71)
  • 3. Washington State at Oregon (69)
  • T-4. Duke at Florida State (67)
  • T-4. Utah at USC (67)

So which teams are the best bets? How do they compare to the expert’s college football picks? Here are the rest of our model’s win probabilities for all the TRACR top 25 college football games. 

Week 8 College Football Predictions

TRACR No. 1 Michigan 98.6% over No. 58 Michigan State

No. 2 Washington 98.5% over No. 88 Arizona State

No. 3 Oregon 97.0% over No. 66 Washington State

No. 4 Florida State 56.3% over No. 9 Duke

No. 5 Georgia is idle

No. 6 Ohio State 52.9% over No. 8 Penn State

No. 7 Oklahoma 92.4% over No. 51 UCF

No. 10 Texas 95.8% over No. 91 Houston

No. 11 USC 79.3% over No. 36 Utah

No. 12 Oregon State is idle

No. 13 Miami (FL) 71.7% over No. 27 Clemson

No. 14 North Carolina 95.3% over No. 94 Virginia

No. 15 Notre Dame is idle

No. 16 Texas A&M is idle

No. 17 Alabama 63.0% over No. 24 Tennessee

No. 18 LSU 87.6% over No. 71 Army

No. 19 Arizona is idle

No. 20 Kansas State 63.0% over No. 31 TCU

No. 21 Ole Miss 80.5% over No. 50 Auburn

No. 22 UCLA 95.4% over No. 112 Stanford

No. 23 Florida is idle

No. 25 Maryland is idle

NCAA Notes

On the outside of the top 25 looking in are No. 26 Louisville (idle), No. 27 Clemson, No. 28 Wisconsin (at Illinois), No. 29 SMU (at Temple on Friday), No. 30 Rutgers (at Indiana), No. 31 TCU, No. 32 Air Force, No. 33 Troy (idle) and No. 34 Texas State (idle).

Louisville had moved up to 16th with a big win over Notre Dame in Week 5, but the Cardinals have fallen to 26th after suffering their first loss against Pittsburgh last weekend.

Missouri rebounded from its first loss to Louisiana State with a win at AP No. 24 Kentucky last weekend. The Tigers are 20th in the AP Top 25 but still have some work to do at No. 35 in TRACR.

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